The Top Technologies Publishers Will Buy

The Top Technologies Publishers Will Buy in 2017

Media executives reveal which technologies they plan to buy this year — and which ones they expect to drive the most revenue.
By Ellen Harvey and Denis Wilson


In an effort to better understand how publishers are focusing their technology strategies, Publishing Executive conducted a survey of the technologies publishers plan to invest in for 2017. Publishers also shared their prediction of which technology investment they expect to drive the greatest revenue growth in the coming year.
In the survey, publishers were asked to select all the technologies they plan to buy in 2017 from a list of 33 solutions. With a large variety of technologies on their shopping lists, there was a wide distribution of responses. Yet some technologies are clear favorites among publishers. The survey also revealed that publishers plan to purchase an average of 7.6 technology solutions in 2017.Chart 1 below shows the top 11 technologies respondents will purchase this year. Each of these solutions was selected by at least a third of all respondents. Read on for the full results of the 2017 Publishing Executive Technology Adoption Survey.
Methodology: The Technology Adoption Survey was conducted in February and March 2017. Executives from consumer, B2B, scientific/technical/medical (STM), and non-profit/association publishing organizations participated in the survey. This report is based on a segment of 70 respondents that work at media companies that earn $1 million or more in annual revenue.

Top 11 Technologies Publishers Are Investing In For 2017

Social Media is at the Top of Publishers’ Shopping Lists

Social media is expected to be the most popular technology purchase for publishers, with 56% of respondents indicating that they will invest in it in 2017. This is the only technology that more than half of respondents indicated they will purchase.

The number and variety of technologies that fall under the social media umbrella is likely one reason these technologies rose to the top of the list. Many social media solutions also have a relatively small price tag attached, making it easy for publishers to buy and test different tools.

A comment from one survey respondent supported the notion that affordability and easy implementation play a factor in the popularity of social tech. “Social media is relatively inexpensive, easily measured, and can we can modify strategy ‘on a dime’ if need be,” the respondent explained.

However, the prominence of social media technologies in publishers’ tech budgets also aligns with Publishing Executive’s recent research on the growing concern around distributed content. With publishers recognizing the audience development and revenue opportunities around social media, and social media strategy is becoming an enterprise level concern, it would make sense that technology investments would follow.

While social media technologies encompass basic social media management and commenting tools, there are many social media technologies emerging that require greater integration while providing a deeper value in terms of driving publisher’s audience development, engagement, and revenue objectives. These include tools include social listening and sentiment analysis, CMS integrations that help scale and optimize the impact of distributed content, and social audience demographic and behavioral data analysis.

Email Is Top of Mind for Publishers

The second most popular technology purchase for publishers in 2017 is email marketing/email service provider (ESP) at 49%. One respondent explained why email marketing is especially important to his business: “Email marketing drives the highest level of traffic to our site and is the primary contributor to overall engagement.”

Publishing Executive has reported on the importance of email in connecting readers to publishers’ content. Email (and email newsletters) are the most immediate tools publishers use to communicate with their audiences and drive engagement. With the email address serving as the lynchpin in the publisher-reader relationship, often serving as the unique identifier across platforms, publishers have recently rallied their efforts to capture email addresses of unknown users. The survey findings indicate that publishers will continue to prioritize this effort and will expect they’ll be looking for tech solutions that enable them to optimize engagement through personalization, monetize email directly, all while increasing the monetizable data profile on users.

Audience Development Is A Priority

The results of the Technology Adoption Survey show that audience development is a top priority. The number 1 and 2 technologies (social media and email) are both tied to driving audience growth and engagement. Other technologies that could be considered audience development-related are solutions like circulation/list management (40%) and audience analytics (39%). Further, content engagement (39%) and content analytics tools reveal valuable insight about how audiences are interacting with content, informing publishers’ audience development strategies and adding a layer of behavioral data to their audience databases.

It’s clear that a better understanding and management of one’s audience can open new revenue opportunities, from greater subscription sales to more targeted advertising. Tying all of these audience development efforts together are marketing automation solutions, which are covered below.

The CDP Buzz

Some technologies that have received a great deal of attention lately did not rank high on respondents purchase lists. Only 13% of respondents plan to purchase Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), for example, which promise to unite disparate data about publishers’ audiences and better target relevant content to those users — two goals publishers have long strived for. One barrier to adoption may be the cost of CDPs. Every publisher surveyed that plans to purchase a CDP in 2017 indicated that their organization earns over $10 million in annual revenue. Interestingly, over half of these respondents (56%) are B2B publishers.

Digital Magazines Are Still Popular Among Publishers

We were surprised that a large portion of respondents (41%) said they plan to purchase digital magazine technology in 2017. Digital magazines have faced a number of challenges in recent years, foremost of which is the decline in tablet sales and the shuttering of Apple’s Newsstand.

Despite these setbacks, some survey respondents said that there is a growing demand for digital magazines among their audiences and that they provide new revenue opportunities. “Digital magazines will bring in some revenue as the markets we serve are just now adapting to them,” said one respondent. Another added, “Digital magazines will replace the fall-off of print advertising.”

Top 5 Technologies Publishers Expect To Drive Revenue

Marketing Automation Is the Top Revenue Driver

When asked which technology will provide the biggest opportunity for revenue growth in 2017 marketing automation topped the list. Marketing automation came out on top despite the fact that only 19% of respondents indicated they will purchase marketing automation in 2017.

We can reasonably venture that being a major enterprise investment, marketing automation is a purchase that is typically tied directly to revenue growth expectations for publishers. And those that plan to invest in this tech have high hopes.

One respondent offered an explanation behind this investment: “Marketing automation and email marketing technologies provide the most near-term ROI on resources spent, and the technology has matured enough to provide robust impact to lead generation and customer retention.”

An even mix of B2B (23%), consumer (23%), STM (30%), and association/non-profit (23%) publishers indicated that they plan to purchase marketing automation tools in 2017. This even distribution perhaps supports the respondent’s claim above that the technology has matured and is more accessible to publishers.

Digital advertising and email marketing technology ranked second with 9% of respondents indicating these technologies will be top revenue drivers. The responses reinforced the important role that email technology will play in publishers’ digital monetization strategies going forward.

Publishers Aren’t Investing In Emerging Technologies

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (7%), augmented reality (7%), and virtual reality (4%) ranked low in publishers’ overall tech budgets (see Chart 1 above). Publishers may be waiting to see how some of the larger industry players implement these relatively new technologies and demonstrate clear use cases before they invest.

However, many of the technologies publishers selected most (from email to marketing automation to social media), can all be enhanced through artificial intelligence based personalization to increases audience engagement and conversions. One respondent explained why he believes AI will drive revenue for his business in 2017: “AI can be used to first learn [about the audience], then increase audience engagement via natural language platforms, chatbots, and predictive modeling.”

Respondents views on augmented reality (AR) were mixed. One described AR as “a fad” that might earn revenue in the short-term, while another predicted that AR will help enhance print advertising and direct mail campaigns.

No survey takers believe that virtual reality (VR) will earn significant revenue for their businesses this year. Despite this sentiment, some media companies experimenting with technology. For example, The New York Times has invested heavily in the 360-degree video (a less expensive and less immersive form of VR) with the launch of its NYT VR app, and the app is profitable. Time Inc. and Condé Nast have also invested in VR and are making the technology an integral part of their video products.


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